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Saturday, August 27, 2016

What's that Saying about Having and Eating Cake?

Near as I can tell, the NYT has decided to emulate that young adult amateur webzine, Slate.

Clearly, it is time for a fisking.

In other words, journalism, to the extent it ever existed at the Paper of Record, has now descended to clickbait. To wit: When the Pilot is a Mom: Accommodating New Motherhood at 30,000 Feet.

Boarding a flight can feel like stepping into a time capsule — men typically fly the plane, while most flight attendants are still women. [And the rest are gay. Just saying.] Which is why a female pilot from Delta Air Lines did something dramatic at a union meeting recently.

I think there is a term for this antecedent — men fly the plane, women are flight attendants — and the consequent is, uh, ummm …

Standing before her male colleagues, the captain unbuttoned her uniform, strapped a breast pump over the white undershirt she wore underneath, and began to demonstrate the apparatus. As the machine made its typical “chug, chug, chug” noise, attendees squirmed in their seats, looked at their feet and shuffled papers.

… just on the tip of my tongue … savor it, and there it is! Yes, the famous non sequitur, right up there in the annals of journalistic foolishness with the Fox Butterfield Effect.

It was the latest episode in what has proved to be a difficult workplace issue to solve: how to accommodate commercial airline pilots who are balancing new motherhood.

With? Enquiring minds want to know about the unmentioned counter poise. Balancing with what? Melons? Cantaloupes? Peaches? How is it the author didn't write, nor the editor insist upon "how to balance new motherhood with being a commercial airline pilot"?

This is a sure sign of clickbait. Superficial attention seeking is rarely overly bothered with silly details like syntax and reason.

But the flight deck of a jumbo jet isn’t a typical workplace. Pilots are exempt from a provision in the Affordable Care Act requiring employers to accommodate new mothers. At 30,000 feet, the issue touches not only on pilot privacy, but also aircraft safety.

Indeed, it isn't. Not merely because it isn't in all regards, but also because most flight decks aren't jumbo jets, and that non-jumbo flight decks are just as atypical as the jumbo kind. Never mind that at 30,000 feet, when it comes to balancing safety and privacy (Annalyn, did you see what I did there?), precisely no one should give even a tinker's damn about privacy.

“The airlines have maternity policies that are archaic,” said Kathy McCullough, 61, a retired captain for Northwest Airlines, which merged with Delta in 2008, who has advocated on behalf of the pilots to Delta management. “I am so glad that they’re stepping forward and taking a stand.”

One reason for the lack of rules is that women make up only about 4 percent of the nation’s 159,000 certified airline pilots — a number that has been slow to rise over the past decade or so.

Reality: thanks to patriarchal attitudes — and I'm being serious here — women were excluded from professional flying simply because they chose their plumbing poorly. In the early 1970s, overt discrimination started waning to the point where now poorly chosen plumbing has become brilliantly chosen plumbing: any woman with even the minimum qualifications will get an interview. And, absent glaring disorders on the order of uncontrollable drooling, will get hired. Consequently, the percentage of female airline pilots has skyrocketed from zero all the way to four. And stayed there. (Trigger warning: contains specious reasoning and sexist assumptions as means to avoid the readily apparent.)

(Fun facts: 96% of airline pilots are male; roughly 0% are gay. In contrast, of flight attendants, 78% are female, the rest gay. Because patriarchy.)

At Delta, a group of women pilots have banded together through a private Facebook page and have approached their union with formal proposals for paid maternity leave — unheard-of at the major airlines — because they say they would like to stay home to breast-feed their babies. At Frontier Airlines, four female pilots are suing the company for discrimination, seeking the option of temporary assignments on the ground while pregnant or nursing.

Oh noes, the dreaded private Facebook page.

There are reasons that paid maternity leave is unheard of at major airlines. Chief among them is that all pilots are treated the same, regardless of plumbing choice. My airline is typical. Pilots get one month sick pay per year. Unused sick pay accrues in a "disability bank". Pilots requiring more than a month sick time in a year can draw from their disability bank until it is zero. After that, they don't get paid.

Male, female, doesn't matter.

Just as with temporary ground assignments. No medically distressed pilots get them, male or female. Why? They don't exist. In yet another symptom of going full click-bait, the "journalist" never bothers to ascertain what these mythical beasts might be, instead taking as given that they roam airline rosters in large, slow, easily caught herds.

More than 40 years later, the major carriers still haven’t resolved this issue. They set their policies for pilots based on the collective bargaining agreements negotiated by the unions. But women of childbearing age account for just a sliver of union membership, so maternity leave and breast-feeding policies have not been at the top of union agendas.

Plus, some members oppose the proposals, citing the costs. One local union leader told several women in an email: “Having a child is a personal choice and asking the rest of us to fund your choice will be a difficult sell to the pilot group.”

I'm not sure why, but just as nearly all pilots are male, almost all are conservatives, and about the only ones who don't own guns live in places that don't allow them. Yours truly, for instance.

So it shouldn't come as a stunner that this is a group particularly inclined towards seeing compulsory payment for others' choices as socialism in a C-cup.

Female pilots can begin to lose wages months before a baby is born. Most contracts at major airlines force pregnant pilots to stop flying eight to 14 weeks before a baby’s due date.

I'm not at all certain from which data dumpster that comes, since the citation is glaringly absent. But it is decidedly whiffy. My airline allows pregnant pilots to use vacation whenever they choose. From the 21st week through a month after delivery, they may use available sick leave, then accrued long term disability, and unpaid leave of absence. And $200 for a maternity uniform.

My airline has nothing to say about when pregnant pilots stop flying. That is a fitness-for-flight issue. So long as a pregnant pilot is able to fulfill the requirements of the job, some of which are inherently not pregnancy friendly (E.g., being able to move the flight controls through their full travel, a particular issue for shorter women. It's amazing what the patriarchy can do.)

While their proposals differ, all say they aim for one thing: to avoid situations in which pilots have been leaving the cockpit in mid-flight for as long as 20 minutes, the amount of time often required to pump breast milk.

Hey, I have an idea. Let's introduce that evergreen journalistic trope, the person in the seat. Except let's make it the mother with her newborn in 17D: "The First Officer has a baby. How happy are you that she is taking a twenty minute break from the cockpit*?"

I'm guessing not happy at all. Obviously, in the new NYT clickbait world, some new mothers' opinions are worth more than others.

Consider what it took for First Officer Brandy Beck, a 41-year-old Frontier Airlines pilot, to pump breast milk. Once the plane was at cruising altitude and in autopilot mode, she would seek the agreement of her captain to take a break. In keeping with Frontier policy, the remaining pilot was required to put on an oxygen mask.

Next a flight attendant — to prevent passengers from approaching the lavatory — would barricade the aisle with a beverage cart. Then the attendant would join the captain in the cockpit, in keeping with rules that require at least two people in an airline cockpit at all times.

Odd. The NYT doesn't seem particularly inclined to wonder why it is OK for women to have a condition requiring absence from the flight deck for 20 mins at a whack, whereas a man similarly indisposed would lose his medical stat.

And what to do about the patriarchal Capt that says "Not only no, but capital NO"? (If I was that Capt, I would have agreed, and told the FO that if she didn't call in sick before the next leg, I'd remove her from the trip.)

Frontier’s management has argued that extended breaks from the cockpit raise safety issues. The company has not offered an in-flight alternative for breast pumping …

Gee. Ya think? And what alternative might there be that doesn't involve flying over fantasy land at a million feet?

Ms. Beck said that after nearly 20 years in the aviation industry, she assumed she could keep her job and nurse her baby. “I guess it never came to light in my mind that I couldn’t do both,” she said.

That would be a fool's conclusion, the kind that would shame even a village idiot. But, for the impressionable, the consequence of feminism: women can have as much as they want of what they want. Choices are for chumps.

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued no official rules for pilots who pump in-flight. But Alison Duquette, a spokeswoman for the agency, said that “leaving the flight deck for 20 minutes would not be acceptable” under most circumstances.

What the FAA really meant to say, and which it would if women were held as accountable for their actions as men is that for FO Beck to fly knowing she had a condition requiring her absence from the flight deck for 20 minutes is a knowing violation of FAR 117.5, Fitness for Duty.

Oh, and that most circumstances include all of them not involving a divert worthy medical emergency.

And the Delta and Frontier pilots know they are pressing an issue that still plagues a group long dominated by women: flight attendants.

This year, a flight attendant for Endeavor Air, a regional airline owned by Delta, filed a discrimination complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, claiming the airline failed to provide reasonable breaks or private places to pump breast milk in her workplace. The commission is investigating.

Have any of these people ever been in an airplane? Even once?

“This is part of breaking down the cockpit door — that’s the glass ceiling here,” said Ms. Grossman, a professor at the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “How do you make a job work when it was designed without you in mind?”

Here's a lifestyle pro-tip. Reality wasn't designed with any of us in mind. Not only are doors not ceilings, but life, even for women, really does involve choices.

One would think that actually having a choice would be a good thing, compared to having none at all. Men, if they want to live happily with a woman have two choices: wage slave, or wage slave. But a woman can do pretty much whatever she pleases, and the zeitgeist insists that pleasing herself has no costs. She should be paid as much as those who did not take leaves of absence, her needs should be accommodated, no matter how impractical, foolish, or unfair those accommodations might be.

I have an idea. When presented with a fork in the road, take it. And accept the consequences.


* When I was at Northwest, there was a massive disappearing of every instance of "cockpit" from all flight manuals, to be replaced with "flight deck". On account of the obvious phallocentric connotations. Except that it derived directly from nautical term from the days of sail referring to a well deck where the tiller was located, and, because of the inherent confines, was also where cock fights were held.

15 comments:

Bret said...

Why can't someone fly and pump at the same time? It's been awhile since my wife did that, but I don't remember it taking any effort or focus.

Hey Skipper said...

Several reasons: privacy, distraction, and ability to respond quickly to an emergent situation.

As a matter of can or can't, it obviously isn't impossible. But the FAA would never allow any other imposition on primary flight duties, so why this one? Besides, it isn't as if the women in this article are asking for that.

Clovis e Adri said...

I am not particularly convinced, Skipper, that giving those women 20 minutes out of the deck is such a risky endeavor.

Given they are 4% of the workforce, and that you guys use autopilot most of the time nowadays, what are the odds this mom-pilot will be desperately needed at any 20 minutes under blue sky, good weather and cruising altitude?

If you answer me with "How safe would you feel knowing the pilot is pumping milk in an emergency?", I will tell I wouldn't feel safe at all, milk or no milk, if the other pilot remaining in the cockpit is too incompetent to take care of any trouble alone.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

----
The NYT doesn't seem particularly inclined to wonder why it is OK for women to have a condition requiring absence from the flight deck for 20 mins at a whack, whereas a man similarly indisposed would lose his medical stat.
----

I need to ask: have you never had a dysentery problem that took you more than 20 minutes?

Now I understand why that's seen as a tough job...

Hey Skipper said...

Clovis:

If I knew I had a dysentery problem before takeoff -- which completes your analogy -- and decided to fly anyway, then that would be a gross failure of professionalism and a violation of the FAR.


I am not particularly convinced, Skipper, that giving those women 20 minutes out of the deck is such a risky endeavor.

Which 20 minutes? Of course, trans oceanic flights have hours where not much happens. But almost all flights have roughly a half hour in the departure and arrival phases. And then there is, typically, ten to fifteen minutes studying, planning, programming and briefing the arrival. Flights here in Europe are relatively short -- plenty of the segments I fly are non-stop activity from push-back to shut down.

In the States, flights can be longer. But let's say it's one of those days which are typical in the summer. Re-routes and dodging thunderstorms. Which, in their patriarchal tyranny, really don't give a damn how much pressure Pilot Mom is experiencing. And, so I've been led to believe, and not just by this article, that pressure can be painful and distracting.

And that gets us right back to fitness for flight. One of the things that makes being an airline pilot unique is that once that airplane leaves the runway, the only acceptable conclusion is coming to a stop at another runway with the airplane in a reusable condition, and that once in the air there is no stopping and pulling over, or even slowing down. The environment, the airplane, and other airplanes, impose demands that often aren't predictable and can't be put off.

Imposing the conditions of blue sky, good weather and at cruising altitude must, in order for them to be meaningful, be routinely predicted and expected. They can't. In the US northeast corridor, storms hundreds of miles away can cause en route complications, no matter how blue the sky might appear.

If you answer me with "How safe would you feel knowing the pilot is pumping milk in an emergency?", I will tell I wouldn't feel safe at all, milk or no milk, if the other pilot remaining in the cockpit is too incompetent to take care of any trouble alone.

There is common, understandable, misconception. There are many reasons why airline travel has become so much safer over the last twenty years. One of them is the understanding that piloting an airliner requires extremely strictly dividing tasks between those required to fly the airplane, and everything else: navigation, communication, checklists, etc.

That is why all airlines now use the Pilot Flying/Pilot Monitoring distinction. It allows mental focus on distinctly different tasks, and gives the PM distance from aircraft performance. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but channelized attention can get anybody. The PM's distance from the flying task makes it much more likely that channelized attention will be discovered and corrected.

So what you think is a matter of competence is nothing like that: it is the clear division of cockpit duties in order to provide resilience.

There are plenty of crashed airplanes and dead people that prove the point.

About which Becky is either wholly and willfully ignorant (Given Ms. Beck said that after nearly 20 years in the aviation industry, she assumed she could keep her job and nurse her baby. “I guess it never came to light in my mind that I couldn’t do both..." ignorance is an understandable assumption.) or doesn't care, or because she is a woman and women must have it all, that she is immune from reality.

I'm not sure there is any other option.

(It isn't possible for me to fully express my dismay at what she did. That is pre-meditated stupidity. And I can't fathom, now that this has become public, why the FAA hasn't started enforcement action. Oh. Wait. Woman. Never mind.)

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

Just out of curiosity: you make a leg of your flight and, in the Hotel, finds out your last meal is giving you real trouble.

Then what? You call the airline and say "Boys, I am stuck at the privy, I don't know how good I will be to flight"?

How that works out, since you may not know if it will take half an hour to get better, or a day?

And how about your pay? You don't get paid the leg back if you don't fly it?

And how does the airline keeps up with such uncertainty? The can't possibly have one pilot in each destination waiting to replace you, so how does that work?

Airline logistics must be fascinating (I mean it).

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

Back to Pilot-Mom, I think the whole matter is being made more complex than it is.

She wants privacy? She could well use some towels to hide her torso. Maybe some curtain too. Heck, there are even automatic pumping machines where her hands will be free most of the time.

If you are allowed to read a book while flying, I can't see pumping milk as any more distractive than that. I see moms pumping milk *and* reading their tablets/smartphones at the same time, and they still keep more awareness towards the baby than I can if I am thinking about any other stuff.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] Just out of curiosity ...

Then what? You call the airline and say "Boys, I am stuck at the privy, I don't know how good I will be to flight"?


Yes -- it is up to individual pilots to decide whether they are fit for duty. There is absolutely no retribution.

How that works out, since you may not know if it will take half an hour to get better, or a day?

Well, that's a judgment call, isn't it? I have only had food poisoning once, but I remember it being a significantly worse experience than mere momentary inconvenience.

And how about your pay? You don't get paid the leg back if you don't fly it?

Whenever a pilot calls med down, the pilot's sick bank* is debited for the block time** of the trip not flown. If the call is before the trip, then that is the entire trip; otherwise, it is the remaining block time.

*We get 72 hrs sick pay each year. Unused time goes into a disability bank.
** Block time is from the time the aircraft pushes back until opening a cabin door at the end of the flight.

And how does the airline keeps up with such uncertainty? The can't possibly have one pilot in each destination waiting to replace you, so how does that work?

No, they don't. The first line of defense is the fact that pilots, as a group, are pretty healthy, so that calling med down in the field is very rare. When it happens, and the aircraft isn't positioned where we have pilots on hotel standby, then the company will move the nearest available pilot as quickly as possible, including chartering a business jet if required.

And sometimes the airplane just doesn't move. Cost of doing business.

Airline logistics must be fascinating (I mean it).

IMHO, airline operations is more complex than just about anything I can think of -- it is fascinating.

She wants privacy? She could well use some towels to hide her torso. Maybe some curtain too. Heck, there are even automatic pumping machines where her hands will be free most of the time.

That's not what these women want, but never mind. She will be distracted from her primary duties. But she isn't the only one on the flight deck. What about the other pilot, does their distraction count?

Her ability to respond to, and confirm, clearances will be impeded. And that imposes on the other pilot, because if there is a violation, the other pilot's ticket is on the line, too.

If you are allowed to read a book while flying, I can't see pumping milk as any more distractive than that.

Lemme see. My reading doesn't distract the other pilot. I can read or not, as the situation requires. I don't need to set up a privacy rig to read. If I don't read, I'm not going to experience distracting swelling and pain in my chest.

And it is the last, as if the first several weren't enough, that should be the attention getter: There is no way to guarantee ahead of time that there will be opportunity, but it is guaranteed that if the opportunity does not present itself, the nursing mom will be distracted.

Wouldn't be allowed for men, so why for women?

Bret said...

Hey Skipper asks: "Wouldn't be allowed for men, so why for women?"

That's the important question and for me, I'd much rather have a hot female pilot than the usual old duffer male pilots and it would be well worth the slight extra risk of dying. :-)

Hey Skipper wrote: "My reading doesn't distract the other pilot. I can read or not, as the situation requires. I don't need to set up a privacy rig to read.>"

Pumping technology has improved since your wife's time (if she even used it), and even then it wasn't nearly as hard as you're making it out to be:

http://www.healthchecksystems.com/Dao_Health.cfm

Would that really distract you? It won't distract the woman - she just sits there and does whatever. One quick motion disconnects if an emergency requires that. No more than putting down your book.

Hey Skipper wrote: "If I don't read, I'm not going to experience distracting swelling and pain in my chest."

And they can't take Advil because why? A couple hours one way or the other isn't that big a deal. What if you get a headache while flying? Is that a life threatening distraction?

--

The bottom line is that I get that an airline doesn't wish to go through the effort and expense to figure out how to accommodate a fraction of 4% of their workforce and it would take some effort to think it through. And I don't blame them or the shareholders. However, I suspect they could figure it out if they (and you) put your minds to it instead coming up with what look to be lame-ish excuses.

Hey Skipper said...

[Bret:] Pumping technology has improved since your wife's time (if she even used it), and even then it wasn't nearly as hard as you're making it out to be:

My comments have nothing to do with technology, and have everything to do with fitness for flight. The rule, evenly applied, means that any physical condition known ahead of time that would distract from performing flight duties renders the pilot medically unqualified.

And they can't take Advil because why? A couple hours one way or the other isn't that big a deal.

Quoting from the article:

A lactating mother often needs to pump breast milk every three to four hours. When she cannot do so, painful pressure can build up in her chest, accompanied by a risk of infection.

“It’s incredibly distracting and painful,” said Ms. Beck, “like when you need to go to the bathroom and can’t.”


I don't think Advil is going to help.

And there are more problems. Pilots don't accrue enough experience to get hired in the majors until they are in their 30s (younger for women, because they don't need as much experience to get hired). Until then, they will be in regionals, typically flying 5-7 legs a day. There is no such thing as 20 minute breaks.

Then, when they get into a major (Delta, United, American, FedEx, SWA, UPS), they will be junior. In the passenger airlines, that means flying shorter haul routes, typically 3-5 legs a day. There is almost no such thing as 20 minute breaks. And, since they are junior, they have almost no control over their schedules, so they won't get the easier trips.

At FedEx we have new hires going to all the airframes. The 777 and MD11 do have route segments where they could pump. But many trips on those airplanes are two weeks long. Being junior, they have no control over their schedule and could get two-week trips back to back. How's that supposed to work with nursing?

Those complications are significant -- seniority is sacrosanct.

But that really avoids the central point. No male pilot would get away with flying knowing he had a condition that would get incredibly distracting and painful unless attended to no matter what else was going on.

Why? Because it would be stupid.

Well, it's stupid when a woman does it, too.





Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

I don't know if you noticed, but you just hinted to a very simple solution to the whole problem.

You only need to assign Pilot-Moms to the shorter regional flights. Since any typical mother has pre-pumping autonomy of 3 to 4 hours, they will surely be able to find 20 minutes to pump in between flights. No one hurted and no need to cry over spilled milk.

You can refer my name to the logistic department of your company, if they ever need an extra hand. I accept payment in Dollars, Euro, Real or Beers.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] Since any typical mother has pre-pumping autonomy of 3 to 4 hours, they will surely be able to find 20 minutes to pump in between flights.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

Really?

Notice they don't need whole 20 minutes, they can separate it in blocks. I don't buy you guys can't sum up 20 minutes free of the cockpit during an afternoon of multiple short legs.

Not to mention all the other options she has to help the pumping, like Bret's link above.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] I don't buy you guys can't sum up 20 minutes free of the cockpit during an afternoon of multiple short legs.

Whether you buy it or not, it is the truth. Especially during multiple leg days. By definition, they involve shorter flights, which means correspondingly less en route time. And because airplanes are expensive, and don't earn money when they are sitting on the ground, turns aren't known for being lackadaisical.

Not to mention all the other options she has to help the pumping, like Bret's link above.

The options are beside the point. I'm happy to grant a hypothetical that there are practical means to make pumping private, whether in or out of the cockpit.

That does not change the fact that nursing pilots are performing duty knowing that if Plan A doesn't work, then the alternative is incredibly distracting pain. (And that is assuming there is even a workable Plan A in the first place.)

In aviation, such an alternative to Plan A is never acceptable. It astonishes me that Ms. Beck somehow thinks this doesn't matter.

Hey Skipper said...

I have many times objected to argument by analogy, but I'm going to give it a whirl, anyway.

My airplane has three electric generators, two engine driven, and the aux power unit (normally shutdown in flight).

If one of them fails on the ground, we can defer fixing it, and proceed with the other two. However, if one of the remaining generators fails in flight, then we must declare an emergency and divert to the newest suitable field.

Plan A: all three generators

Plan B: Two generators provides sufficient redundancy.

Plan C: One generator is an emergency, because even though it is capable of supplying all aircraft loads, if it fails we are forced to rely upon ...

Plan D: Emergency battery power and a ram air turbine.

This analogy applies directly to allowing nursing mothers to fly:

Plan A: Everything goes exactly right.

Plan B: incredibly distracting pain.